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The Secret Chord

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  15,085 ratings  ·  2,630 reviews
Peeling away the myth to bring the Old Testament's King David to life in Second Iron Age Israel, Brooks traces the arc of his journey from obscurity to fame, from shepherd to soldier, from hero to traitor, from beloved king to murderous despot and into his remorseful and diminished dotage.

The Secret Chord provides new context for some of the best-known episodes of David’s
Hardcover, 302 pages
Published October 6th 2015 by Viking
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Joan Hollins I love her books, but I am fighting hard to finish this one. It just doesn't have the drive and twists that her other books have, especially "People o…moreI love her books, but I am fighting hard to finish this one. It just doesn't have the drive and twists that her other books have, especially "People of the Book". It's just that book that you keep slogging through, not enough to give up completely, but not very motivating to complete, either. I wish I'd never started it. (less)
Karen The title is from Leonard Cohen's song, "Hallelujah."

You know there was a secret chord
that David played, and it pleased the Lord,
but you don't really…more
The title is from Leonard Cohen's song, "Hallelujah."

You know there was a secret chord
that David played, and it pleased the Lord,
but you don't really care for music, do ya?(less)

Community Reviews

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Average rating 3.59  · 
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 ·  15,085 ratings  ·  2,630 reviews

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Dale Harcombe
Mar 11, 2015 rated it it was ok
Two and a half stars.
Having enjoyed all the novels by Geraldine Brooks I have read, and adored some of them, I was desperate to read this one and so excited to receive a copy from The Reading Room and Hachette Australia to read and review. I couldn’t wait to dive into it and started immediately it arrived. Maybe part of the problem was that I had such high expectations, but in the end I was disappointed in this book. The writing is beautiful in some places as you would expect from Geraldine Bro
Angela M
Mar 11, 2015 rated it liked it
I didn't remember much about the biblical story of David except that he was a young man who outwitted a giant and killed him with a stone and a sling shot and that he became King of Israel . I also remembered an illicit love affair with Bathsheba. Because I didn't know a lot more than that , I was very surprised and taken by the story that Geraldine Brooks has created where I learned about his multiple wives , and other relationships, his children , the wars, and what a complex man he was .

As a boy Natan was a shepherd, caring for his family’s flock. He lived a happy life with his mother and father, and younger sister in a small village. The day he was approached by the leader of a group of rebels was to be the turning point in his young life; his future was destined.

David had also been a shepherd, but his upbringing was different to Natan’s – cast aside by his father, David was only six years old when he was thrust into the role of shepherd. He had to learn how to look after him
Justin Tate
Feb 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Epic biblical fan-fiction with Pulitzer-worthy prose. A triumph both in terms of research and imagination. Fleshing out the scarcely-mentioned prophet Nathan works surprisingly well as a narrative structure. David's erotic relationships with Jonathan and Bathsheba are spot on.

One of those novels where you don't realize how much you love it until it's over and there aren't any more pages to devour. Admittedly slow in spots, but more engaging than March. Both are great, though. You can't go wrong
This account of the life of David as told by his seer and advisor Nathan reads like a Shakespearean tragedy. He comes off as so monstrous in his path to consolidating his kingdom, yet so human in his joys in life and admirable in his ambitions. At a point when David has made Jerusalem the capital of his kingdom, Nathan is tasked to write a truthful history of his life, starting with interviews of people from David’s past. What he learns moves him toward a judgement that the bad outweighs good, t ...more
Hannah Greendale
The Secret Chord is the story of King David, as told through the eyes of his prophet and counselor, Natan. David desires a written record of his life and tasks Natan with interviewing those who knew David as a young man. As Natan digs into David's past, he gives account of his own experiences with the King, such that David's past and present converge to depict a man both ruthless and kind, sacred and yet flawed.

Because of me, he will live in death as he did in life: a man who dwelt in the seari
Apr 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
I started this with some trepidation having read too many reviews from disappointed readers. Geraldine Brooks is one of my favourite authors and Caleb's Crossing one of my favourite all time books so no pressure!
As it turned out I loved it. At the beginning I faltered a bit as we moved backwards and forwards in time but then, in the second half, it settled down and moved strongly to what I thought was a wonderful and uplifting conclusion. I had to read the coronation of King Solomon twice becaus
Jul 10, 2015 rated it liked it
This is one of those books that improves the further you get into it. Halfway through I still considered dumping it. The names used for biblical characters are in Hebrew, and although they sound similar to the more familiar English names, this adds an element of confusion. Dates are rarely told. Places are often unrecognizable because they too are in Hebrew or ancient and no longer exist. The tribal names are difficult to keep track of. There are many tribes. We are told King David's life story ...more
Dec 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating Account of King David's Life, Through the Eyes of the Prophet Nathan

A Period of History about which I've Read Little

This novel gave me a look at an historical period about which I've read little (outside of my weekend Hebrew school lessons as a child).

So I was fascinated by this look at the life of the legendary Old Testament ruler of Israel, King David.

Nathan the Prophet and Narrator

The narrator of this tale is the King's faithful servant, the Prophet Nathan (a.k.a. Nathaniel). Nat
switterbug (Betsey)
Jun 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
You don't have to believe that God exists, or that the bible is the true "Word," to thoroughly enjoy Brooks' latest novel, this story reaching back in history to Old Testament times. I am a secular Jew, and think of the bible as the original written allegory and metaphor of humanity's struggles. I gambled that Brooks' storytelling skills and her finesse in stitching the drama of history to contemporary times would be sufficient to carry me along. It met my expectations in most ways: in its simpl ...more
A retelling of the life of King David from the perspective of the prophet Nathan. The naming takes some getting used to, but the stories – from gory massacres to moments of triumph – are recognizable from the Old Testament. What makes Brooks’s take unique is the different points of view it shows and the ways it subtly introduces doubt about David’s carefully cultivated image. It’s sensual historical fiction, full of rich descriptive language. Strangely unmemorable for me, perhaps because the sto ...more
Elyse  Walters
Mar 11, 2015 rated it it was ok
This book was exactly what I expected....

I had no intention on requesting this book from Netgalley 'last' year...but worried my
Jewish Book club might choose it for 'this' year.

I LOVED "People of The Book", by Geraldine Brooks, but I was pretty sure if the blurb
for "The Secret Chord", didnt sound great to me, why kid myself.

But...since last year...I read other reviews -- positives and negatives.
So, I recently downloaded this book from the library - thinking maybe the audi
Oct 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“And there is one chord, one perfect assembly of notes that no other hand can play. The sound of it – pure, rinsing sound, void so that your spirit seems to rush in to fill the space between the notes”

The Secret Chord is the fifth novel by Pulitzer prize-winning Australian author, Geraldine Brooks. David, son of Yishai (Jesse) the Beit Lehemite (Bethlehemite): a shepherd boy, a warrior, an accomplished harpist with a beautiful voice, a composer of psalms, a husband, father, lover, and second Kin
5★ + 5 ✡
What a wonderful piece of work. Geraldine Brooks has captured the spirit and mood of this ancient, difficult time, with distinctive portrayals of Old Testament characters, some we may recognise and some we may never have heard of. Doesn’t matter – they were scary times whoever they were!

David was an awe-inspiring, terrifying, handsome devil. He was a charismatic ladies’ man and probably bi-sexual. Have a look here at Michelangelo’s famous David.

2 1/2 stars

My expectations were very high, maybe too high, because in all honesty I was a bit disappointed. THE SECRET CHORD was certainly richly detailed and beautifully written, descriptive without being wordy. However, overall it just didn’t enthral me – I didn’t LOVE it. At times the story was slow moving, certainly in the beginning, and the chronological order chopped and changed as Natan related the story and for some reason decided to do this when he pleased rather than starting at the b
Geraldine Brooks is gifted with the uncanny ability to speak in tongues not her own. David, the second King of Israel, was "the first man in literature whose story is told in detail from early childhood to extreme old age." In this novel, Brooks writes in the voice of prophet Natan who stayed by David’s side through his long life, from the moment Natan exhibited his channeling of a voice not his own--the voice of the source of all things, called ‘the Name.’ This is particularly fitting, since Br ...more
Tom Mathews
I've read just about every book that Geraldine Brooks has published and she has never disappointed me. That said, her latest book, The Secret Chord didn't impress me as much as her other books have. While it could be her writing that it is at fault, I suspect that the problem lies with the subject matter instead.

For decades now I've considered myself to be an agnostic, which is to say I choose not to believe in a higher power yet have no wish to impose my nonbelief in others. With that in mind,
Nenia ⭐️ Queen of Awkward ⭐️ Campbell

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While I enjoy historical fiction, I prefer reading about time periods I know at least something about so reading doesn't turn into information overload, but I know next to nothing about King David, apart from the fact that he defeated Goliath. THE SECRET CHORD is a book about the life of King David, from valorous beginning to tragic end, told by Nathan the Prophet. I'm going to be honest with you here - if my book club hadn't chosen this
Clif Hostetler
This book is a historical novel rendering of the Biblical account of King David. It's told in first person voice of Nathan, the prophet (a.k.a Natan). It follows the Biblical account quite faithfully thus includes clear portrayals of the sex, grit, blood, and violence contained in the source. In other words, this book is not to be used in a children's Sunday school. Nevertheless, this book brings the story alive in a manner that is missing in 1&2 Samuel.

Geraldine Brooks is a good writer and she'
Diane S ☔
Decided to put this aside for now without rating it. I have read over half the book and there are many things bugging me. Modern language mixed with the old. Going back and forth, past, present, to future. Plus I am just not enjoying it. Will I pick it up again? Not sure right now.
There were parts of this I liked and parts I was disappointed in. Disappointment in Geraldine Brooks' books does often seem to be part of my reaction to reading her works, so I was prepared for this, also as a result of reading a friend's review (thanks, Dale!).

I enjoyed the retelling of King David's story and was pleasantly surprised by how faithful the recounting of actual events was. I liked that this made me revisit the story of David from 1 Samuel 16 through to 1 Kings 2 in the Bible. I wa
Susan Johnson
Oct 13, 2015 rated it liked it
Geraldine Brooks is one of my favorite authors. Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague actually made the Black Plague interesting. People of the Book is one of my very favorite books ever. I was really looking forward to this book and I came away disappointed.

The book is about David from the Bible. He was interesting person who was both good and very bad as most of us are. He basked in God's good grace and leaned on his seer and prophet, Natan.

You'd think this would be fascinating but it star
Jan 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An incredible look at the life of King David of Israel. I am no Bible scholar, so I don't know if this is really playing fast and loose with the Biblical account of David's life. However, I really enjoyed this.

It shows David warts and all. For a national (and religious) hero, David has many faults. Perhaps that is why he is so loved. Personally, I like heroes with faults. Peter Parker aka Spider-Man is much more fun than Clark Kent aka Superman. The X-Men are more fun than the Justice League. L
David (bible David, as in ". . .and Goliath David) has always been a favorite of mine. . . .but I have to admit, after reading this, I just feel sad. The same kind of sad I feel after I read King Lear. Potentialities lying shattered all around and scattered throughout adjacent lives - forgotten collateral damage just by the barest random association with the consequence receipient.

I thought this book was about music! Duh. Sad stories of failed kingdoms, told by history keepers who urgently spea
Oct 30, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
Considering all the good things I've heard about Geraldine Brooks, this book was not what I was expecting.

I usually love these kind of fictional historical biographies, The Song of Achilles is a favourite. Yet this did not work for me at all. Perhaps it is, in part, due to the subject matter, I know little-nothing about David. It made it difficult for me to reconcile myself with the language Brooks uses. It's often coarse, and while i'm not afraid of bad language, I wasn't sure whether it was an
Jun 17, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I always struggle with the movie adaptation of a book I love. When the director makes choices about details that do not match the images I have created, I am upset. We both can’t be right, after all, and I can’t be wrong. That was my experience with this fictional account of the story of King David. This is obviously well-researched and Brooks is faithful to the elements of the story recorded in Scripture. But, it was all those pesky details that did not match the images in my head. Where does a ...more
May 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Going into this book I wasn't sure it was going to be for me. My knowledge of biblical stories is not great and about all I knew of King David was when he was a kid he killed some big dude with a rock and a slingshot. So I don't know how much of this is based on historical fact and how much is total fiction but it doesn't matter it's a great story. And if you know more about the bible you might get different things out of it than I did but I really enjoyed it. King David was a somewhat controver ...more
Sep 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
The story of King David as told through his prophet Nathan. As a child who grew up in church, the story of David fascinated me. A young boy rises from the obscurity of tending sheep to slaying the giant Goliath and eventually becoming King of Israel. As a teenager in the church, David was held up as a prime example of what can happen if one strays out of God's will.
As an adult, currently out of the church, I enjoyed Geraldine Brooks' telling of the tale. More depth is given to the personalitie
Oct 22, 2015 rated it did not like it
I love Geraldine Brooks's books for the most part. I found March dull, but other than that - well, as Ron Weasley always said - brilliant!

Obviously The Secret Chord would follow suit, especially when it's a book about the biblical King David. I guess the warnings were all over the front piece, a brutal Iron Age man, war, love, prophecies. But King D was a good king, right? And the brutality was simply the sort that happens during war. Spoiler alert now.

I should've been aware of what was to come
Jul 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: to-buy, buddy-read
It has been such a long time since I've read anything by Geraldine Brooks that I'd almost forgotten how exquisitely she writes. This book was no exception to that and although initially I wasn't particularly enamoured of the topic of her latest offering, I found myself swept up in her wonderful storytelling. Not really knowing very much about the Biblical David.....other than he killed Goliath and was King of Israel....and with no real preconceived opinions, I quite enjoyed reading Brook's versi ...more
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Australian-born Geraldine Brooks is an author and journalist who grew up in the Western suburbs of Sydney, and attended Bethlehem College Ashfield and the University of Sydney. She worked as a reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald for three years as a feature writer with a special interest in environmental issu

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